Back in my teens, if I had a dime every time the radio stations here in Central Indiana played a song by the band Boston, I would be a very rich man today. Seriously, from the Fall of 1976 through 1981, when I graduated from high school, Boston, who had only released two albums during that time, had to be one of the most played bands on our radio stations. Nearly every song from the first two albums were stuffed onto the radio. And, the one time Boston came to Indianapolis in the Seventies for a concert, it sold out in hours, back in the day when you had to go to a ticket outlet to purchase a physical ticket. Unfortunately for me, the concert took place during one of my sports seasons so I could not go. Fortunately, I did see them play in the early 2000s, just before original lead singer Brad Delph took his own life.
You know the crazy thing about Boston? They seemed to be the first band that started the whole Album Oriented Radio thing that sucked the life out of radio in the late-Seventies. But, because they were the first, that made them the coolest. After they knocked down the walls, bands such as Journey, Styx, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon and a host of lesser talented bands followed. Even in the Eighties, we got more of the same in the form of Loverboy and Bon Jovi. And, while Journey and Bon Jovi have recently marched into the Hall, the original “faceless band” Boston has remained on the outside.
I totally understand why critics are quick to dismiss Tom Scholz’ creation. Sure, as a fan, it is frustrating that we have to go nearly a decade before ever getting a new album by the band. As I said earlier, their eponymous debut was released in 1976, followed by their sophomore album, Don’t Look Back, in a relatively lightning speed of two years later in 1978. Then, came seven years of silence. In 1986, Third Stage was released, which happened to be both their only number one album and their last really big commercial success. Their next three albums arrived in 1994 (Walk On, #7), 2002 (Corporate America, #42) and 2013 (Life, Love & Hope, #37), along with a greatest hits package that was released in 1997. Sure, that’s a paltry catalog for a band that debuted 42 years ago. But, it is the impeccable quality of those albums that stick out to me, even though they totally missed their opportunity to have become a bigger band. Or, did it work in their favor? Since Boston has released so few albums, their debut continues to sell big, as it is the second biggest selling debut album of all-time, behind Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction.
On the singles chart, Boston has had modest success, with a number one song in 1986, “Amanda”, as well as three more top ten hits. But, it is the album cuts where Boston derives its success. Plus, lead guitarist Scholz owns patents for various electronic devices that he invented that gave his guitar its symphony-like sound that so dominated the latter-half of the Seventies and throughout the Eighties. Much like Chicago’s Terry Kath and Little Feat’s Lowell George, Scholz has always been a vastly underrated guitarist. All you have to do is to listen to the band’s debut song “More Than a Feeling” to realize that he was producing sounds light years ahead of every other guitarist in 1976. He literally made everyone else perk up and take notice, changing the sound of rock radio, for better or worse, forever.
If Boston had only stopped after the second album, maybe their reputation would not have taken such a hit over the years between albums. Or, if they had quit after the man with a once-in-a-lifetime-voice, Delph, passed away, maybe they would be held in higher regard. Fortunately, for fans like me, they continue to persevere, able to recreate the early hits with three vocalists taking the reigns from Delph. But, it was not until I saw the band live that I became a believer in Boston belonging in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
With that said, here are my twenty favorite Boston songs that should put an end to Boston being snubbed by the Hall, and, hopefully, lead to their first nomination this fall.
20. “Sail Away” (Life, Love & Hope, 2013)
19. “Tell Me” (Greatest Hits, 1997)
18. “Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love” (Corporate America, 2002)
17. “Can’tcha Say (You Believe in Me)” (Third Stage, 1986)
16. “If You Were in Love” (Life, Love & Hope, 2013)
15. “I Had a Good Time” (Corporate America, 2002)
14. “I Need Your Love” (Walk On, 1994)
13. “We’re Ready” (Third Stage, 1986)
12. “Party” (Don’t Look Back, 1978)
11. “Hollyann” (Third Stage, 1986)
10. “Feelin’ Satisfied” (Don’t Look Back, 1978)
9. “Rock & Roll Band” (Boston, 1976)
8. “Amanda” (Third Stage, 1986)
7. “Piece of Mind” (Boston, 1976)
6. “A Man I’ll Never Be” (Don’t Look Back, 1978)
5. “Don’t Look Back” (Don’t Look Back, 1978)
4. “More Than a Feeling” (Boston, 1976)
3. “Hitch a Ride” (Boston, 1976)
2. “Smokin'” (Boston, 1976)
1. “Foreplay/Long Time” (Boston, 1976)
Outside of the Top Ten hits, was there ever any doubt what song would be number one on my list? It shouldn’t surprise anyone. The one song I may have ranked too low was “A Man I’ll Never Be,” which is just a great ballad. And, how was that song never a Top 5 hit? Just goes to show how bad radio was in the late-Seventies when a terrific song like that one was not a hit. Well, we have had lots of revisionist history going on with music of the Seventies and Eighties, but that could be a topic for another day.
In conclusion, Hall voters, just give Boston some love. They deserve it.